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WALTHAM FOREST: Fraud detection record criticised
HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds could have been lost as a result of the council’s poor performance in tackling fraud, according to a watchdog.
The authority has been told to review its procedures after a review found it performed worse than other similar boroughs in a number of areas.
No cases of deception relating to the single person council tax discount were found.
This compares to 1,242 cases with a value of £477,000 detected in a neighbouring borough.
No cases of fraud relating to the use of ‘blue badge’ parking permits were uncovered in 2009 and 2010, despite a neighbouring borough reporting 172 cases with a value of £86,000.
The badges change hands for up to £500 on the black market.
The authority also did not report any cases of fraud relating to social services or council contract procurement.
There were 15 convictions for housing and council tax benefit fraud in Waltham Forest, which is well below the average for outer London boroughs.
However Cllr Michael Lewis, deputy leader of the opposition Conservative group, said he is reassured that the council is determined to tackle the problem.
He said: “It is important we do not give the impression that we are not tackling this problem and of course the council can always do better.
“In cases of individuals claiming to live alone it can be difficult to investigate with people coming and going from properties and the assessor having to partly rely on what the person tells them.
“It is a big concern but the council has told us it is increasing its concentration on this area and others.
The Audit Commission found the authority performed well in detecting recruitment fraud, with 97 cases reported.
The council’s procedures for enabling staff to report wrong-doing by council colleagues were also said to be working well.
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